How to Become An Expert In Your Field: Our 6 Step Formula For Success
Now is the best time to learn how to become an expert in your field. Why? Because experts have some of the most significant influence on today’s consumers.
A recent study on Gen Z found that 37.9% say experts have the most impact on their purchasing behavior. That number fell second only to celebrity influence and is expected to increase in the next decade. Therefore, if you’re not providing expert advice to your clients, customers, and patients, odds are someone else is.
So, if you find yourself asking one of the following questions, this piece is for you:
- Can anyone become an expert?
- What are the characteristics of most experts?
- How can I become an expert fast?
- What steps should I take to become an influential expert?
This article answers all of the questions above and more. Keep reading to learn the steps you can take to gain influence and become an expert in your field today.
What Is An Expert
An expert is someone who has influential knowledge or skills in a particular area. They often use their knowledge to provide unique perspectives and opinions about the world around them. Elon Musk, Neal deGrasse Tyson, and Karen Lynch are excellent examples of this. Their expertise in fields like technology, science, and business have paved the path for others to learn and grow.
Experts exist across multiple industries and fields of study. They are teachers, writers, CEOs, influencers, and more. More modern-day examples include individuals like marketing guru Neil Patel and life coach Tony Robbins. Others are writers like Malcolm Gladwell and editorial director of TEDWomen, Pat Mitchell.
How Long Does It Take To Become An Expert?
If you’re anything like us, you might have heard of the 10,000-hour expert rule and panicked a bit. The 10,0000-hour rule comes from a book written by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell references a study in the Psychological Review that shows it takes approximately 10,000 hours or five years to become an expert in any given field.
Pretty intimidating. Right?
Lucky for you, the 10,000 rule doesn’t have to be the standard. While it might take some individuals 10,000 hours to specialize in their field, others have less time developing their expertise. For example, a study on expert, professional game chess players by Rice University found it took Master chess player Bobby Fischer 9 years to become established. However, the same study found it took other master chess players only 728 hours to establish themselves as experts.
6 Steps to Become An Expert
So, now that we know timeframe isn’t a good indicator of expertise, what is? Is there a secret formula for developing expertise? Well, we don’t know about a secret formula; but we do know about a formula we’ve found that works. It’s backed by research, examples, and strategies. We’ve written about this formula and other steps you can take to become an expert in your field below.
1. Acquire Knowledge
Knowledge is the first key to establishing yourself as an expert in your given field. That’s because people prefer to listen to those with the credentials to back up their statements.
For example, a study of individuals working across 80 companies in the competitive automotive, defense, and aerospace industries found that 46% have a master’s degree, 9% have a Ph.D., and over 84% have professional experience of more than 11 years.
It’s essential to consider the impact education and certifications can have on your credibility. When you choose a physician, odds are you probably look for one or all of the following:
- Someone with an NP or MD behind their name
- Someone with credentials + x years of experience
- Someone with continual training, particular schools, or specialty certifications
You wouldn’t want a nurse performing neurosurgery. Would you? Similar to the nurse and neurosurgery example, other individuals don’t want to listen to someone unaccredited in their field.
2. Gain Experience
According to a 2020 Pew Research Center study performed across 20 countries, 66% of individuals say they prefer problem-solvers to be individuals with experience rather than those with sole expertise. This statistic coincides with modern trends where an individual can have all of the knowledge in the world but still needs x years of experience to apply for a role.
Fortunately for you, we’ve come up with a few things you can do to gain the right kind of experience and establish yourself as an expert in your field:
1. Job shadow another expert in your field.
2. Volunteer to help other experts in your field with research, projects, or other tasks.
3. Start a blog or article where you can share your unique opinions and findings.
4. Take on freelance gigs where your unique expertise provides value to an organization
Once you’ve accomplished this list, you’ll be that much closer to establishing yourself as an expert and leveraging it on your path to success.
3. Find a Mentor
There are many benefits mentorship has in developing expertise. For starters, mentors support growth. They often do this by encouraging physical, mental, and emotional development. Mentors also serve as a source of knowledge, offering their combined experience and personal learnings to their mentees.
Aside from growth and knowledge, mentors help you reach your goals quicker. A study by Gartner found that participants were 70% more likely to reach their goals if they had someone to keep them accountable, like a mentor. Partnering with a mentor or coaching program ultimately holds you accountable and sets you up for success.
4. Build Authority Online
The next step in becoming an expert in your field is to build your authority online. Today’s world offers many choices and sources for problem-solving. However, the GenZ study we mentioned earlier reminds us people prefer to turn to experts to solve a problem. They go to their trusted Instagram influencers, TEDx speakers, and digital coaches who have digitally proven their expertise on a topic.
There are three components of online authority building you can use to set yourself up for digital success:
Focus On Your Niche
We discuss this concept more thoroughly in our article: 8 Easy Steps To Find Your Niche, but it’s such a critical element to any business that we wanted to touch on this concept again here. Think of a niche as your way to set yourself apart from others in the digital space. For example, instead of being another person that focuses on healthy eating habits, perhaps you offer specific nutrition diets for middle-aged women who face chronic health issues.
Choose The Right Digital Channels
Choosing the proper channels is less of where you want to be online and more of asking yourself: where is my audience? For example, if your field is focused more on reaching senior citizens, Instagram might not be the best avenue for you to reach your target audience.
One avenue we’ve found that works across multiple audiences and platforms is the TEDx stage. TEDx talks provide you with unique leverage as they have the potential to reach millions of individuals at a time. Learn more about how you can give a TEDx talk by reading our blog: How to Land A TEDx Talk In 7 Easy Steps.
Network With Other Influencers
Leveraging the influence of others is a great way to get yourself known. Make an effort to reach out to experts and influencers who also have interests in your field. If you already have a mentor, you can start there. Comment on expert blogs, share their social media content and introduce your community to them. Offer to partner with them and host a live or a podcast. People love free traffic and often return the favor.
If you follow the steps above, when your community needs someone, they will turn to you as their authority figure.
5. Offer Unique Opinions
Offering unique opinions on a subject is a great way to establish credibility and expertise in your field. Unique opinions stand out and often challenge the status quo. Steve Jobs, for example, offered a unique opinion on cell phone technology. He said cell phones could become revolutionary tools: iPods that made phone calls. Thus, the development of the iPhone and the phrase “1,000 songs in your pocket” was born.
While history has proven the value of individual opinions, many are often afraid to express their differing views because of the reactions they might receive. We get it. Our social media society even makes those who love pineapple pizza question themselves; but, we’re here to challenge that narrative. Unique opinions aren’t a matter of if that idea gets out. They are about when that idea gets out.
Expert Opinion Examples
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson and Modern Communications
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson had a unique perspective about the way physics works. She conducted a number of successful theoretical physics experiments and made breakthrough scientific research that enabled others to invent the fax machine, the touch-tone phone, fiber optic cells, solar cells, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.-Source: Women In History
Elon Musk and Online Banking, Electric Cars, Colonizing Space and More
Elon Musk has no lack of expertise when it comes to technology. For example, his opinion on brick and mortar banking caused him to found X.com, one of the first online banking platforms. X.com later merged to become what is now known as Paypal. From there, he challenged how we think about cars and their environmental impacts and used his opinion and influence to create the first electric car company, Tesla. More recently, he created Space X with a mission to colonize Mars and get citizens to space. These are but a few of the vast amount of still companies he’s invested in and created that showcase his expert opinion and influence.
Margaret Thatcher and The Free Market
The first female prime minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher embraced a male-dominant world and challenged the 1979 idea of economic prosperity. While like most politicians her policies are debated, her post-WWII program of reform is known to have reached almost all elements of British life. Her belief in the free market reduced inflation and helped the British people. She was so popular her policies became known as Thatcherism. She was even the first person in 160 years to win three consecutive elections.
Winston Churchill and WWII
Though many of Churchill’s policies are up for debate, one thing remains: Churchill was a leader for his WWII opinion. He was one of the first to realize what was going on in Hitler’s Germany. He highlighted the dangers of Nazism and refused to back down during the 1930s.
Charlotte Bronte and Female Independence
In the Victorian Era, Charlotte Bronte was a writer who used the male pen name Currer to get her works published. As was common in that time, women writers were often looked on with prejudice and branded for their “lack of feminism.” Even though Charlotte used a pseudonym to publish, she challenged modern opinions in her writing. Her female character in Jane Eyre can’t settle down with anyone until she first learns to respect and love herself fiercely for who she is.
6. Create Content With A Value Proposition
While we might not all have the brains of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, we do have our own unique set of skills we can use to our advantage. This skill set is why others want to learn from us, follow us on social media, and buy our products or services. So, why not use those talents to your advantage and create valuable content for your prospects and customers?
We discuss this concept more in our blog How to Become A Thought Leader where we mention only 18% of respondents say the thought leadership content they consume is excellent or good. So, there’s a tremendous amount of room for experts to create content that actually provides value to their customers.
Value Proposition Examples:
So, what makes content valuable? According to the website Valuable Content, it follows this list of characteristics:
- Useful – educational, informative, or entertaining.
- Focused – relevant, timely, and meaningful to its target audience.
- Clear and compelling – telling a story that people understand & respond to.
- High quality – interesting, well-produced, with substance.
- Genuine – written from the heart by people who care.
Here are some examples of content that offer unique value to customers:
3. Research Studies
The Expert Formula
Studies indicate the quality of practice matters much more than the amount of time you spend on a subject. Deliberate practice involves two things: improving the skills you already have and extending the reach and range of your skills.
Mentorship plays a considerable role in expert development as well. Teachers and coaches help when you’re trying to improve your skills. Meanwhile, focused thinking and guided accountability help extend your reach and range of skills.
Research on world-class performers found the success of their entire career was dependent on the quality of their practicing. In practically every case, the practicing was constantly supervised either by a teacher or an assistant to the teacher. Based on this logic, we can infer the formula for becoming an expert is quality practice + focused thinking + accountability.
Other Questions About Expertise
What Are The Qualities of Experts?
A study of individuals across automotive, defense, aerospace, natural gas, and particular machinery industries found these unique qualities made up the majority of industry experts.
|Ability to utilize education and experience as a resource as well as utilize resources given||Can network among peers||Who the individual knows|
|Independent thinker||Create a community of individuals to seek out knowledge from/with||How the individual views their worth to the company|
|Often has several ideas at once that can lead to overwhelm||Who/what the individual has access to|
|Thinks of concepts like a puzzle that needs solving||Rules to which the individual solves problems|
How Can I Become An Expert Fast?
As we’ve stated before, there is no set timeline for becoming an expert. However, you can utilize our formula and the steps above to set yourself up for success. Another idea is to work with a therapist or life coach to develop more expert qualities and challenge your thinking.
How Can I Be An Expert In Any Subject?
Following the steps above, you can become an expert in any field. First, develop your knowledge and use it to get your foot in the door. From there, find people you want to learn from and position yourself to work with them. Next, create a digital footprint for yourself, bring unique perspectives to conversations, and provide people with valuable content they can’t ignore.
Becoming An Expert People Can’t Ignore
To sum everything up, here is how you can become an expert in your chosen field, regardless of where you are at now, your previous experience or career trajectory:
Find a mentor
Offer unique opinions
Create content with a value proposition
Improve the skills you already have
Develop new skills
Once you’ve done all of these things you’ll be able to leverage your expertise to those around you. The unique skill set and perspective you develop will make you unstoppable.